Former Soviet chess legend Nona Gaprindashvili, who won the Women’s World Championship five times and who, in 1978, became the first woman awarded the title of Grandmaster by the International Chess Federation, is suing Netflix over her depiction in The Queen’s Gambit.
The hit Netflix limited series, based on the book of the same name, follows fictional chess prodigy Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) as she rises to dominance in the male-dominated chess world of the 1950s and 60s.
In the series finale, when Harmon faces fictional chess opponent and Russian chess master Vasily Borgov, commentators make the following observation during an early match in the tournament:
This line of dialogue is now the subject of a $5 million defamation lawsuit, filed this week in Federal District Court in Los Angeles. The suit claims the line concerning Gaprindashvili’s having “never faced men” is a “devastating falsehood, undermining and degrading [Gaprindashvili’s] accomplishments before an audience of many millions.”
The suit goes on to elucidate the statement’s falsehood, stating, “By 1968, the year in which this episode is set, [Gaprindashvili] had competed against at least 59 male chess players (28 of them simultaneously in one game), including at least ten Grandmasters of that time.”
In a recent interview, Gaprindashvili called the scene an “insulting experience,” pointing out the irony of a series written to inspire women, which had simultaneously ignored one of the sport’s early female trailblazers.
“This is my entire life that has been crossed out, as though it is not important,” Gaprindashvili, who is now 80 and living in Tbilisi, Georgia, said in the interview.
In a company statement, Netflix responded, saying, “Netflix has only the utmost respect for Ms. Gaprindashvili and her illustrious career, but we believe this claim has no merit and will vigorously defend the case.”
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